Ethiopia and Eritrea have said they will leave “no stone unturned” in enforcing speedy demarcation of the new border, the UN’s newly appointed Force Commander announced on Friday.
Major General Robert Gordon said that military leaders from both countries had committed themselves to ensuring swift implementation of the 1,000-km border demarcation. He added that the two countries were also preparing plans for raising awareness among border communities about demarcation and territorial changes.
He was speaking in the Eritrean capital Asmara after returning from the Military Coordination Commission (MCC) meeting in Nairobi where the military leaders re-affirmed their commitment. His press briefing was video-linked in both the Eritrean and Ethiopian capitals.
The Major General said there had been “concern” among the international community about an eight month delay in the MCC talks. He said border incidents which occurred over the last few months could have been resolved through MCC meetings. In one recent incident, armed Ethiopian militia fired over the heads of UN peacekeepers.
Major General Gordon added that “technically” the border could be demarcated by the end of next year. He also said that the UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) had contingency plans in case of flare-ups or increased tensions along the border when demarcation takes place. It is due to being in May.
Ethiopia and Eritrea fought a two-year border war from 1998 to 2000. Under a peace deal signed in December 2000 they agreed that an independent panel would draw up a new, internationally recognised boundary.
Gordon said that in the run-up to demarcation, it was vital that activity in the 25-km buffer zone which separates both countries remained “transparent”.
“We are now in a new chapter in this peace process,” he pointed out. This included support by UNMEE peacekeepers for the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission's implementation of the 13 April border ruling. He said UNMEE administrative, logistical and demining support had to start “in the near future”.
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